Free Radical Design has always been known for creating games with well-balanced and ultimately addictive multiplayer modes, whether that's due to the founding staff's history at Rare, coding the likes of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark for the Nintendo 64, or as its own entity, creating the popular TimeSplitters series. We recently caught up with Ubisoft and Free Radical at
The first map that we saw was called Swamp, which, as the name implies, is a dark, waterlogged marshland complete with a thick, low-lying fog, which makes visibility a challenge. You'll have to wade through the thick marshes (which could easily pass for Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back), through reeds, and under fallen trees, all offering varying degrees of cover. If you're playing as a Mantel trooper, a quick dose of Nectar--thereby increasing the visibility of enemies--will make it easy to spot any would-be-camping rebel scum. Troopers are also reasonably visible due to the fluorescent yellow patches on their uniforms, which makes things slightly easier for the Promised Hand rebels.
We played a number of team deathmatch games in the dark and moody depths of the swamp. Each game had two teams: troopers and rebels. In case you haven't read our single-player hands-on--or our
In the single-player campaign, you'll play firstly as a Mantel trooper and then as a Promised Hand rebel--experiencing the gruesome reality of war without a constant Nectar high. At first glance it seems as if the troopers have the upper hand in multiplayer, but the rebels aren't without their tricks. For one, they aren't weighed down with armour, which means that when playing as the rebel, you're able to pull off a quick sprint move. You'll also be able to make troopers overdose with a melee attack to their Nectar regulator, located between their shoulder blades. Overdosed troopers will go into a frenzy, firing at anything in sight--including their allies.
Given that troopers can't see dead bodies, rebels can also "play dead" via a quick button tap, although you can perform this move only when close to dying. It's not a foolproof tactic, either, given that you'll still be vulnerable to explosions whilst on the ground. You'll also be exposed when reviving yourself from your fake death; if you time it right, then you'll leap up in the nick of time, but if you get it wrong, then it will take you longer than normal to revive, rendering you exposed and vulnerable for a critical few seconds.
Rebels can also modify trooper weapons using Nectar: a knife can be laced with the drug, as can standard grenades, with overdose-inducing effects.
During our time with the game, it seemed that troopers were the flavour of the day, given the immediate benefits that Nectar held (including increased health, standard speed, aim, stronger melee attacks, and clearer vision). Despite this, Haze's creative director, Derek Littlewood, assured us that both sides are equally balanced in the game. From what he has observed, new players are keen to try out the troopers' immediate advantages from the start, but after playing the game for a while, they come to see the strengths of the rebels' unorthodox and improvised battlefield tricks. Despite our short time with the game, we could see the benefits of both sides.
The second scenario we played was a team assault on the Land Carrier map, which took place on the deck of an airborne aircraft carrier that was floating over dense jungle. This scenario can be won by either wiping out the opposing team if respawns are limited, or by achieving an objective. In this case, the rebel team was attempting to deactivate the base's defences by way of accessing a control panel high above the carrier's deck, whereas the troopers were tasked with holding them off until the timer ran out.
Aircraft, debris, and gaping holes in the deck, all need to be manoeuvred around, and there are also buggies that can be used, whether you prefer to mow down a few enemy troops or just get from one end of the long, narrow, map, to the other at speed. We didn't get to experience a full 24-player match, which is what the game should support at launch, but during our local network matches, the game held up nicely with no connection issues or lag.
Each map is prefaced by a short video briefing, which serves to give an overview of the objectives and layout. We didn't get to see any evidence of it, but Free Radical has said that the single-player story will continue in the multiplayer mode (what they dubbed "episodic multiplayer"), and compared it to watching the deleted scenes from a DVD--adding extra information to the core story seen in the campaign. Although it remains to be seen how they'll include this in the final game, it sounds as if it could be a welcome addition.
Haze is looking to be a much-needed shot in the arm to the PlayStation's first-person shooter lineup, and one of the few exclusive third-party ones to date. From what we've seen in our previous coverage of the single-player and co-op mode, Haze aims to offer a unique storyline, plenty of white-knuckle action, and a variety of abilities when playing--first as a Mantel trooper, and then as a Promised Hand rebel.
During the course of the day, we also managed to see the single-player and cooperative modes. To find out more on our single-player and co-op impressions, see our